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Interview: Paolo Barghini, Italy

There was an effortless aura emitting from Italian competitor Paolo Barghini as he moved his way through the sands, canyons and hills of this year’s Roving Race. Catching up with the first-placed competitor at the end of the massive Long March, we asked what his secret was.

“I trained a lot,” said the 52-year old, a professional runner and trainer from Italy. “Last year when I was at the Gobi March, I didn’t train and I finished third. This year, I trained full time so I had good preparation physically and mentally. I came here to win and I did the job.”

It wasn’t an easy race to win with a lot of tough competition on the course, so how did Paolo sustain his focus? “My strategy was to win the first stage with some lead, and then again in the second stage and then to control the race from there,” he says. “It went just as I thought.  Yesterday I paced very easily–I could have done two hours ahead of what I did.  At Checkpoint 4, I was running with Peter [Lee] and then I decided to go harder. At the end, I left the stage to Rafael [Fuchsgruber] because he’s a good friend of mine. l Iiked that he could win a stage of this race.”

Barghini says it was the draw of Jordan that motivated him to start training early. “I came to Jordan because I wanted to see Petra,” he says. “After I won the 2009 Sahara Race and won under the Pyramids [of Giza], it’s nice to win this race that is finishing under Petra, another fantastic race.  RacingThePlanet gave me the chance to come here and run, and the Wadi Rum is a fantastic desert.”

One of Paolo’s strengths, which became evident here in Jordan, is his ability to fly over the sand. Based by the sea in Carrara in Italy’s Tuscany region, Barghini has been using his coastal base to his advantage. “Three times a week I ran around 30-kilometers or more on the beach,” he explains. “Once a week I ran in the mountains with this sort of terrain–mountains and so on, uphill. I am very lucky because I have all of this to train on at home.  And I did 150-kilometers every week.  I also have some more time, because I work as a trainer, so I run some more kilometers with my clients.”

He credits his wife and family for much of his success, and how they supported him throughout his tough training schedule. And with the race coinciding with his birthday (on the Long Stage), that was added fuel. “I trained a lot for this race because I wanted to come here and try to win,” he explains. “It was a good gift because yesterday was my birthday. I am 52 and I think it was a good result for a guy that is 52.”

He’s not wrong, and he’s not about to stop either. Paolo is already conspiring to head to the Atacama Crossing 2013 with a team, like he did with great success at the Sahara Race 2011. “I’m sure [I will do it] with Nicola Benetti who is here,” he confides. “He helped me in this race, he’s a nice guy and he really supported me. So I would like to try to give him a winning race and maybe we will be in Atacama with another guy to try to win that one.”  

Watch out Chile.

By Clare Morin